Written by Stefan Kostarelis
Perth company Fastbrick Robotics began making headlines in 2015, when it was revealed that the company was working on “Hadrian 105” a fully automated bricklaying robot.
Hadrian 105 was unveiled last year and is capable of laying 225 bricks per hour, which is four times faster than a human. Using a laser guidance system, Hadrian 105 can build a house with the precision of a highly skilled human bricklayer. However, unlike a human, Hadrian 105 can work 24 hours a day without taking a break or tiring.
Hadrian 105 is certainly impressive but Fastbrick has showed no signs of resting on its laurels. As well as winning the WA Innovator of the Year Award, the company has recently received a cash injection from investors and is currently in the process of building a second, more superior prototype called “Hadrian X”. When completed, it will be capable of laying 1000 bricks an hour.
Mark Pivac, Director and Chief Technical Officer of Fastbrick, told Perth Now that the catalyst for developing the robots originated during Perth’s bricklaying crisis of 2005. “People have been laying bricks for about 6000 years and ever since the industrial revolution, they have tried to automate the bricklaying process,” he added.
Once widely available, the impact of robotic technology on the real estate industry will most likely be huge. Technology such as Hadrian X will reduce construction times and costs and may even allow clients to customise their own homes.
In September of last year, ASX-listed Fastbrick signed its first framework agreement for the Hadrian X. According to the agreement, Fastbrick will be subcontracted by Archistruct Builders & Designers to build 11 residential houses in Perth.
We contacted Oliver Gray, Communications Coordinator for Fastbrick, and asked him about Hadrian X and some of its possible effects on the real estate industry.
Can you give us your one-line description of your incredible robots and what they do?
From the computer aided design of a house structure, the Hadrian X robotic bricklayer handles the automatic loading, cutting, routing and placement of all bricks to complete the end-to-end bricklaying system and build a complete structure.
It’s been reported that Hadrian X will be able to lay the frame of a house in two days. Is there a plan to get into high-rises at any point?
Depending on the size and shape of the building, the Hadrian X has the potential to build structures with a second storey. Of course, the build is limited by the length of the 30m boom as well as other factors, but designing and manufacturing a model that can build multiple levels is perhaps something that we might look at in the future.
How far is the prototype of Hadrian X from completion? When and where will you begin rolling them out?
According to our recent Investor Presentation, the Hadrian X is estimated to be at approximately 30% completion. The finished product is expected to be available sometime towards the end of 2017.
Do you see yourself as a disruptor in the construction industry?
Fastbrick Robotics and the Hadrian X definitely holds a disruptive position in the global construction industry. We have completely revolutionised the way we build houses, from the planning phase to the placement of the final brick. The technology and software that we have developed has never been achieved before, and this will inevitably pave the way to even bigger and better things in the future.
How quickly would this technology be able to build an entire green-fields development? Do you think agents will start to have troubles keeping up with the speed of these machines?
My experience with property agents is fairly limited, and as such I’m not aware of how long houses typically take to sell or what the current employment climate is like for them. However, it stands to reason that the more houses there are, the more work there will be for agents. Perhaps over the coming years we will see a lot of growth in this industry. As far as the construction of entire green-fields developments is concerned, the build time would be largely dependent on the size of the project and the types of structures that are being built.
Nobody loves drones more than agents, will we potentially see some of that technology be integrated into yours?
With the way that technology is progressing at the moment, anything really is possible. We haven’t yet explored the use of drones and how they might be implemented in our technology, but as an industry that’s currently experiencing massive growth, there’s no telling what might happen in the years to come.
There are clear benefits to 3D-designed robot-assisted brick laying such as reduced times and costs. What are the greatest challenges you face?
Certainly, there have been technological challenges that our engineering team has had to overcome. As someone with very limited engineering experience I know nothing about the process, but while our team is relatively young, they are some of the brightest, most committed and most visionary people I have ever met.
But perhaps one of the biggest hurdles we’ve seen is the resistance of some people to embrace our innovation. The essence of human nature is to create a constant environment around us, and as a result, we have developed a resistance to change that has become hard-wired into our psyche. It’s no surprise that completely changing the way we build structures has made some people unsettled and sceptical, but we’re confident that in due time they will see the vast benefits and efficiencies that the Hadrian X provides.
What impact is this technology likely to have on the profit-margins of investors/developers looking at new-build homes?
By simplifying the whole building process, we have dramatically reduced the costs associated with the completion of a structure, and therefore increased the potential profit margins. Our bespoke TAD software handles all of the design processes from architectural concerns to the acquisition and ordering of building materials, making the whole planning process both easier and cheaper.
Labour costs are also massively reduced. Rather than having a team of bricklayers assigned to the build over a time that can often stretch to several months, the only labour costs apply to the person operating the Hadrian X for what is now only a matter of days.
Another factor that as previously been an underestimated cost is the management and disposal of waste from building sites, especially if it is to be disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner. The Hadrian X, however, produces almost 0% waste, and eradicates the problem almost entirely.
How do you see technology such as Hadrian X affecting the real estate market?
It’s difficult to predict the extent to which the Hadrian X will affect the real estate market. However, with the reduced cost of housing construction, it makes sense that we will see an increase in the affordability of homes in the future.
Do you plan on holding some kind of exhibition where agents can come and see the machinery at work first-hand?
The Hadrian X is still in its research and development phase, but come the end of this year when the construction of the machine is complete, we will inevitably make the technology available for agents and the wider public to see at work